Put Frederick Douglass on the $50 Bill

Let’s replace Ulysses S. Grant with an American who shows our best side.

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There's somewhere around $750 billion worth of U.S. currency circulating around the globe. We're talking actual cold, hard cash—billions of pieces of paper, with their portraits and their signatures and their bouts of bizarro Masonic iconography. During this time when American power and prestige is in flux, at best, and when the United States and its new president are trying to press the perezagruzka button and change its image around the world, I say we start with its actual images. Let's put our paper currency to work, helping us tell a different story about America. It's time to put our mouth where our money is.

I'm coming after you, Ulysses S. Grant.

You seem like a swell guy (and happy 187th birthday this week!). Your plainspoken dignity helped define what America wanted from its Midwesterners. Your beard—well-kempt, but vital and robust—was perhaps the Platonic ideal of 19th-century Federal facial hair. You weren't nearly as awful to black and American Indian people as a lot of your contemporaries—or as your critics urged you to be. And, heck, you saved the Union on the battlefield and, as president, saved it all over again by keeping postwar tension from boiling over into Civil War II.